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What does "freedom of speech" actually mean?

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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:46 AM
Original message
What does "freedom of speech" actually mean?
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 01:47 AM by Fountain79
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


There seems to be varying degrees of belief of what the first amendment guarantees to us.

Does this amendment actually mean....That I can't get fired for saying something controversial?

or

Does this amendment actually mean.....That a state can't have a "state" religion?
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BuyingThyme Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:50 AM
Response to Original message
1. You also have the right to get fired. There's no conflict there.
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 01:53 AM by BuyingThyme
And, no, the states cannot Constitutionally impose religion, but they do.
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:51 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. just to be annoying...
It says Congress...nothing really about states...
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BuyingThyme Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:56 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. The freedoms apply to all Americans, and the Congress
cannot prohibit or abridge said freedoms.
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:57 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. but does congress...
Mean state legislatures..
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BuyingThyme Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:02 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. No, but the First Amendment lays out freedoms which
cannot be prohibited or abridged by anybody, including state legislatures. The freedoms are inalienable.
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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:08 AM
Response to Reply #6
10. there was a decision that those apply to state legislators
I don't remember if it was a court decision or an amendment,
but at some point your question was explicitly addressed.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #6
14. Supreme Court has determined that it applies to the states
The Bill of Rights, ie the first ten amendments to the constitution, generally are phrased as applying to the federal government.

But the Supreme Court has determined that the 14th Amendment requires that those rights also apply to the States. It has also decided that the Due Process Clause means that post civil war amendments which are phrased as applying to the states, apply to the federal government.

So basically no governmental body can make a law that abridges your right to speech or freedom of religion.

Also courts have said that the phrase "make no law" also applies to the executive branches of government so it is not just the legislatures, it is also the governors and the president and their executive branches that cannot abridge your freedoms.

The Supreme Court has even decided that state courts cannot abridge your freedoms by enforcing unconstitutional laws, eg in Shelly v. Kramer.
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:23 AM
Response to Reply #6
18. According to 14th Amendment it does.
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JohnLocke Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-05-06 01:10 AM
Response to Reply #2
24. Incorporation doctrine...
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BuyingThyme Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:55 AM
Response to Original message
3. dupe
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 01:56 AM by BuyingThyme
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madeline_con Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:55 AM
Response to Original message
4. Theoretically, yes.
But people are fired all the time for exercising their rights. It should be fought more often in court, IMO.

The trouble with controversial speech at work is, a case can be made so that the firing seems to be because of something else. People who disagree with a certain POV can be treacherous when it comes to things like that.
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:08 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. but at the same time...
Are their rights technically violated? Does the first amendment apply to job situation? If we wanted to go to the extreme one could argue that racist and sexist comments should not be grounds for termination because the 1rst amendment protects them.
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madeline_con Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 03:28 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Good one.
Maybe the clamor raised by comments cause some people to retract them or apologize, but some refuse to. They know their rights, and refuse to back down, no matter how offensive they may be to certain people.

Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church is a perfect example. I wish he weren't allowed to speak, but who would he pick to silence, given the same opportunity?

OTOH, the comment might reflect a particular mindset that could lead to discriminatory ACTIONS...
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Disturbed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 06:22 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. Certain types of speech are against the Law.
The most famous one: Yelling fire in a theater. Speech that encites violence. Libel or slander. Two different concepts. Stating that one wishes to kill the Pres. or VP.

Any others?
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Seeking Serenity Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-05-06 08:50 AM
Response to Reply #11
25. A small correction . . .
Certain types of speech are against the Law. The most famous one: Yelling fire in a theater.

It is NOT against the law to shout "Fire" in a theatre . . . if there is actually a fire.

What can be actionable is FALSELY shouting fire in a crowded theatre. But in such a case, one is not called to account for one's SPEECH, but for the resulting damage.

Just a pet peeve of mine. Carry on.
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_ed_ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 08:27 AM
Response to Original message
12. 1st Amendment
Does this amendment actually mean....That I can't get fired for saying something controversial?

No. Many people claim freedom of speech erroneously when they are "silenced" by a non-governmental entity. Freedom of Speech only applies to the government. If you work somewhere that has a policy that you cannot have any posters in your cubicle, and you post a political statement, and are chastised by your employer, then this is NOT a free speech issue. The employer has the right to control what happens in his or her place of business, just as you have the right to quit and work somewhere else. If you are carrying a political statement in a rally, and are silenced by the government, then THAT is a free speech issue.

Does this amendment actually mean.....That a state can't have a "state" religion?

A state cannot have a "state religion." The establishment clause addresses this directly, that a governmental body cannot establish a religion.
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DeaconNoGood Donating Member (42 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:10 AM
Response to Original message
13. freedom of speech means .........
that you can stand in a public place and tell others that you don't like what the government is doing and that you want it changed, without the fear of persecution by government. You can write an editorial that shares your disdain for the government without the fear of government persecution. You can post on DU that you hate the policies of GWB without the fear of government persecution. These are forms of protected speech. There are forms of unprotected speech - "I don't like my neighbor and I'm going to blow his head off with a shotgun." or "I don't like those Christians down the street at the Baptist church and I'm gonna burn that damn place down." There are responsible limits on the Freedom of Speech. Most people forget that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written to clearly define our unalienable rights, which were endowned to us by our Creator, and limit the power of government.
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im10ashus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:12 AM
Response to Original message
15. I believe we give up our First Amendment rights at work.
And a few others. Workplace rules dictate our expected behavior set down by the company. :shrug:
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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:25 AM
Response to Reply #15
19. Yep...with limitations:
http://library.findlaw.com/2003/Sep/30/133065.html

Even though the First Amendment free speech criteria do not apply to private employers, determine if there is some other interest that governs the employees ability top speak freely. The following are some examples:

Is this employees speech being restricted or punished because the employee is expressing religious or other beliefs that are different from the employers or from co-workers?


Are employees of some religions or national origins allowed to express themselves regarding religion or national origin, but not others?


Is the employee being punished for speaking a different language during lunch or breaks?


Are the employees rights to share information protected by some other right, e.g. union regulations under the NLRB or PERC that allow employees to share salary information?
Additionally, determine whether the employer has a duty to restrict the employees speech. For example:

Does the employees speech violate the anti-harassment or anti-discrimination laws, including local ordinances?


Are other employees using speech or expression to retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her legal rights?


Is the employee entitled to whistleblower protection?
By addressing the above questions, you should begin to develop a sense of whether the employees freedom of speech has been violated.

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Toots Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:41 AM
Response to Original message
16. It says Congress shall make no law it does not say States can make no law.
Just saying......that is their loop hole.
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:18 AM
Response to Original message
17. My point with all of this....
This post was obviously inspired by two recent events dealing with the first amendment, the Missouri proposal to enact Christianity as the state religion, and the teacher getting fired for bashing Bush. In both cases people here have used the grounds of the 1rst amendment to argue these cases. Yet does the first amendment actually apply to a teacher, a geography teacher no less, who makes controversial statements to high school kids? Was the teacher using Bush honestly to teach something or using his position of power and influence to change student's minds? I am Spanish teacher, I might statements about my frustration with the fact that Mexico still struggles with staggering corruption and/or that Taco Bell, however tasty and cheap, is in fact NOT Mexican food. That still does not mean that I will make political statements about the government.
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rpgamerd00d Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:49 AM
Response to Original message
20. Yes to both. You can't be fired for speech & a state cant have a religion
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:09 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. So sexual harrassment laws are illegal?
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rpgamerd00d Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:45 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. No, freedom of speech ends at the other persons nose.
Other than that, pretty much anything else restricting it is illegal.
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Fountain79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-05-06 01:07 AM
Response to Reply #22
23. Racist statements at work are ok too? n/t
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